There is a saying that there are only two things certain in life: death and taxes. Well, I’d like to add ageing to the mix. You see, we are all ageing -, every minute of every day. How well we age is up to us.
The main signs of ageing – fine lines, wrinkles, pigmentation and sagging skin – are most evident on our faces. Slowing down these signs is not as simple as choosing a good moisturiser. By making small changes to some of the most basic things we do every day, you can make a big difference to how well your skin ages.
Think for a moment about the telling signs when a friend or family member isn’t getting enough sleep. It’s not just their eyes that look tired. Their skin is dry, dull and sagging. Why is this? When we sleep, our bodies go into repair mode. Part of the repairing process involves making collagen, which is a building block of our skin, smoothing out fine lines and making our skin appear plump. If you’re not getting enough sleep then you are making less collagen.
Tip: Ensure you are getting at least eight hours of sleep every night to maximise your collagen production
We all deal with stress on a daily basis, but it’s when we put ourselves under excess stress that our skin can be affected. Our stress hormone, cortisol, has an inflammatory action and can affect the skin’s ability to retain moisture and also collagen production. Increased cortisol levels also lead to a decrease in the blood and nutrients sent to our skin, leading to dryness and a loss of lustre in the skin.
Tip: introduce stress management practices into your daily life, e.g. yoga, meditation, breathing exercises
ABC’s Catalyst aired a story in September 2015 which provided a great example of the effect that exercise has on skin. They ran a small study on a group of 65 year-olds who lived a sedentary lifestyle. They took biopsies from their buttocks (to take out the effect of sun on their skin) and got them exercising for three months. At the end of the three months they took fresh biopsies and the effect that exercise had on their skin was dramatic. The dermal layer of their skin (the layer which contains all the collagen and elastin) had greatly increased, so much so that it was virtually indistinguishable from that of 20-30 year olds.
Tip: Include at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily, e.g. walking, swimming.
Over the years scientists have been examining diet and the effect it has on the skin. The current consensus is that the Mediterranean diet comes out on top. This diet is rich in whole grains, low in refined sugar, contains omega-3s (e.g. avocado, olive oils, fatty fish) and is mostly plant-based (high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory). This is backed up by a recent study published in 2016 which showed that people who ate a mostly plant-based diet had much healthier and younger looking skin than people who didn’t.
Tip: Choose a diet which is high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and omega-3s
We all know that what we put on our faces can change the way our skin ages. Just as important, though, is what you don’t put on your face. Ingredients in many commercial skincare products can be counterproductive and accelerate your skin’s ageing. Parabens are probably the best example of this. This commonly used preservative has been shown to interact with UV light and cause DNA damage in our skin cells. This can lead to an increase in the signs of ageing – fine lines, wrinkles and pigmentation.
Tip: Choose natural and organic skincare that is free from synthetic ingredients, including parabens, sodium laurel sulphate, nanoparticles, PEGs, artificial fragrance and petrochemicals.
Bridget Carmady is a naturopath (BNat, BHSci Hons) with an interest in skincare, particularly ageing. Bridget is also founder of organic skincare brand Clémence Organics, www.clemenceorganics.com. Clémence Organics’ purpose is to enhance beauty without compromising health. Award-winning naturopathic formulations for your best skin yet.